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Commission on Faith and Order of the NCCCUSA
While all areas of disunity among Christians are appropriate matter for Faith and Order discussion, one widespread area of church division that is explicitly a responsibility of the US churches is the division among Protestant communities between “Evangelical/Holiness/Pentecostal” and “Mainline/Liberal” expressions of the same theological heritage. One way this set of differences is sometimes characterized, or perhaps more accurately caricatured, is by speaking of an emphasis among some on personal “justification” and among others on corporate “justice.” Justification, being put into right relationship with God, and justice are, of course, in fact the shared concerns of all the churches. Orthodox and Catholic churches and Protestant and Anglican communities that not experienced these divisions may have particularly valuable resources to bring to these discussions.
Academics and social justice advocates have been engaged for many years now in attempts to bring “justification” and “justice” into a coherent ecumenical relationship. The Joint Declaration on Justification of the Lutheran World Federation and the Roman Catholic Church, 1999, has been a matter of interest of a number of US churches. The World Council of Churches Faith and Order Commission is engaged in a study of Theological Anthropology and included the director of our Commission in their 2003 consultation. A request has come from one of our sending bodies for a study of justification and three requests for a study of theological anthropology. The time seems ripe to bring these strands of dialogue together into a US Faith and Order study.
The present proposal is for a study that would begin by reading Scripture together, utilizing a review of appropriate materials from other dialogues as this may be helpful. A second step would be a review of pertinent developments in church history and historical theology, utilizing for instance such material as Krister Stendahl’s "The Apostle Paul and the Introspective Conscience of the West," Harvard Theological Review LVI No. 3 (July 1963), 199-215 and in Paul Among Jews and Gentiles (Philadelphia: Fortress), 1976, 78-96.
A third step would be consideration of how a variety of ecclesiastical cultures understand key pertinent doctrines: theological anthropology, soteriology, justification and sanctification. The choice of the term “ecclesiastical cultures” is an attempt to address dual problems in our discussion processes. While many members of the Commission directly represent churches, the number of Commissioners who represent the theological heritage of their own church or of a cluster of churches but are not directly appointed by their own church authorities is growing. The representatives from Graymoor Ecumenical and Interreligious Institute may be joined in the coming years by additional representatives of Catholic religious communities with ecumenical charismas; the Society for Pentecostal Studies, which has tripled its delegation in recent months; and the Wesleyan Theology Society is looking to double its delegation. These additions are generous gifts of time and energy that will make our Commission more truly representative of church life in the US. Further, use of the term “ecclesiastical cultures” is intended to suggest that because some communities have very little that is available in written and published doctrinal and magisterial statements, to present accurate information of their theological worlds, it is often helpful to move to phenomenological and cultural-studies based methodological approaches. For these communities, use of the methods of liturgical studies, ritual studies, oral history, and visual and kinesthetic hermeneutics are invaluable in getting at the communities’ own authoritative and characteristic statements of belief.
A fourth step in the study could be consideration of the Joint Declaration and appropriate WCC Faith and Order materials. Finally, the group could hope for movement toward a convergence statement on “Justification/Sanctification/Theosis and Justice/Ethics.” The study as proposed would certainly not be complete in one four year period, but how quickly a group could move through the elements suggested would perhaps best be determined empirically rather than prescriptively.
General Readings for the Study
Anthony Lane, Justification by Faith in Catholic-Protestant Dialogue: An Evangelical Assessment (London: T & T Clark, 2002).
Irene Dingel, "The Debate over Justification in Ecumenical Dialogue," Lutheran Quarterly XV (2001).
Constantine Scouteris, "Church and Justification: An Orthodox Approach to the Issue of Justification and Collective Faith," Greek Orthodox Theological Review 28 (2001).
Jurgen Moltmann, "Jesus Christus: Gottes Gerechtigkeit in der Welt der Opfer und Tater," Stimmen der Zeit (August 2001).
Frank Macchia, "Justification through New Creation: The Holy Spirit and the Doctrine by Which the Church Stands or Falls," Theology Today (July 2001).
Elsa Tamez, The Amnesty of Grace: Justification by Faith from a Latin American Perspective (Nashville: Abingdon, 2000).
The Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification by Faith, Lutheran World Federation and Roman Catholic Church (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1999).
Justification and Sanctification in the Traditions of the Reformation: Prague V, The Fifth Consultation on the First and Second Reformations, Geneva, 13 to 17 February 1998, Milan Opocensky and Pariac Reamonn (Geneva: World Alliance of Reformed Churches, 1999).
Union with Christ: The New Finnish Interpretation of Luther, Carl E. Braaten and Robert W. Jenson, eds. (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1998).
Henry Edwards, "Justification, Sanctification, and the Eastern Orthodox Concept of Theosis," Consensus 14 (1998).
Jurgen Moltmann, "Was heisst heute 'Evangelisch?' Von der Rechtfertigungslehre zur Reich Gottes Theologie," Evangelische Theologie 57 (1997).
Paul Hinlicky, "Theological Anthropology: Toward Integrating Theosis and Justification by Faith," Journal of Ecumenical Studies 34 (Winter 1997).
Justification by Faith: Lutherans and Catholics in Dialogue VII, H. George Anderson, T. Auston Murphy, and Joseph R. Burgess, eds. (Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1985).
Justification by Faith: Do the Sixteenth-Century Condemnations Still Apply? Karl Lehmann, Michael Root, and William Rusch, eds. (New York: Continuum,1985).
J.M. Lochman, "The Doctrine of Justification in a Society of Achievers," Reformed World, 35/5 (1979).
Readings for the New Perspective on Paul (in preparation for October 2004 meeting)
Getting Started (if you are pressed for time, read these at the very least):
Frank Thielman, “Paul the Law, and Judaism: The Creation & Collapse of a Theological Consensus,” chapter one of Paul and the Law: A Contextual Approach (InterVarsity Press, 1994). (Note: This chapter is an outstanding introduction to the whole issue of the new perspective on Paul. Start here).
Donald Hagner, “Paul and Judaism: Testing the New Perspective,” in Peter Stuhlmacher, Revisiting Paul’s Doctrine of Justification: A Challenge to the New Perspective (InterVarsity Press, 2002). (Note: This is also a very good introduction to the new perspective. Note also Stuhlmacher’s essays as well).
Include These Also, If Possible:
James Dunn, Jesus, Paul, and the Law: Studies in Mark and Galatians (Westminster/John Knox, 1990).
Seyoon Kim, Paul and the New Perspective: Second Thoughts on the Origin of Paul’s Gospel (Coronet Books, 2002).
E.P. Sanders, Paul, the Law, and the Jewish People (Fortress Press, 1983).
Krister Stendahl, “The Apostle Paul and the Introspective Conscience of the West,” Harvard Theological Review 56 (1963), 199-215 (reprinted in Stendahl’s, Paul Among Jews and Gentiles and other Essays).
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